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on May 21, 2012
If you are passionate about Mongolian history and want to read the original story, then do yourself a favor and buy this Kahn version for a fraction of the price compared to others. Some reviewers suggest this cheaper version is somehow lacking, but I couldn't disagree more. If you are engaged in some academic or literary pursuit, then this version falls far short and you are better off with Igor de Rachewiltz's translation followed by Professor Urgunge Onon's as a second choice. Most people reading this review are best served by Kahn's version, and don't think you are missing out because of price. What you will get from Kahn is a highly readable story-like version that doesn't make you stumble everytime you need to pronounce any Mongol word, which makes for a much more pleasant experience.

If we compare the Kahn's translation to the scholarly IdR, the single biggest thing you will notice is the spelling of all things Mongol. Example, IdR spells Genghis Khan as Cinggis Qa'an while Kahn gives an acceptable Chingis Khan. I will offer an example in translational difference that will hopefully give you a sense of what to expect:

Kahn, p160: "He sent Subetei the Brave off to war in the north where he defeated 11 kingdoms and tribes, crossing the Volga and Ural Rivers, finally going to war with Kiev."

IdR, p194 #262: "Further, he sent Sube'etei Ba'atur northwards to campaign as far as the countries and peoples of these 11 tribes: Qanglin, Kibca'ut, Bajigit, Orusut, Majarat, Asut, Sasut, Serkesut, Kesimir, Bolar, and Kerel; and, making him cross the rivers Idil and Jayaq rich in waters, he sent Sube'etei Ba'atur to campaign as far as the city of Kiwa Menkermen." (Note: I was unable to add all the symbols that accompany letters in the Mongol words, and 1-3 are present in virtually all of them.)

The comparison of those two passages (they are the same) should tell you everything you need to know; the Kahn version is significantly more user-friendly and I can't possibly stress this enough. You can check out my review of the IdR translation if you are still not convinced, and compare the opening sentence of both books by the title of my review. I hope this helps you make this difficult decision, and I do highly recommend this version even if it is not the densest or most scholarly of those available. Enjoy.
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on February 26, 2001
The Secret History is a record of the Mongolian Royal families, which is thought to have been written during the thirteenth century. Paul Kahn has kept the original prose format in his translation, which I feel makes this the only version to own. It begins with the creation myth of the wolf and deer from which the Mongolian people (in legend) are descended from; throught he birth of Temujin, and ending with the ascention to the throne of Ogedai Khan. I highly recommend this to those who are looking for primary sources to add to their Asian history collections.
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on April 3, 2000
The Secret History of the Mongols is one of the most important primary source for study of Mongol history and Chingis Khan. Also, this book is very impressive poet like Homor's great works. I know Francis Woodman Cleaves has already translated it into English. He is great master of Mongol history, however, his "King James English" is terrible, especially foreigners like me. Paul Khan's work overcomes this big problem. The easy and spoken English let everyone enjoy it. Now, read it, enjoy it, and feel the "World Conqueror"
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on February 10, 2008
This is one of the least thorough interpretations of The Secret History of the Mongols. Anyone who finds this book of any interest should read the same book translated by Francis Woodman Cleaves or Igor de Rachewiltz, both versions are considerably better.
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on July 6, 2009
This is a fine, light adaptation of the same by Francis Woodman Cleaves. I recommend this book to a new Mongol fan. But if you are serious about Mongols you should know that this work misses a lot of the original content.

For example, Paul Kahn removed from the early part the origins of most of the Mongol clans that join Chingis in the middle, which includes the heritage of many characters. That would have only made perfect sense to include, although he seems to think it would be boring for some.

I give Paul Kahn credit for adapting a difficult book. I do not know Mongolian either. But for another example, he wrote:

" live by some rule that says, I don't need to be offered some food before I take something to eat. You have the custom of eating whatever you can find,"

where it should be something like,

"The rule for someone like you is that she is not to be given something to eat just because she is called. The rule for someone like you is that she eats if she happens to find something,"

which makes a lot more sense in context (the princesses are telling Chingis' mother she is invited to the feast but not owed meat, not telling her she is not invited, and accusing her of being a scavenger.)

I should also mention the seemingly phony line divisions he added to make it look like an epic poem. So, my advice is to get the Cleaves version if you are serious about Mongols, or about this work in particular. Get this one if you are new to Mongols and don't want a difficult book.
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on November 11, 2014
This is a gem. A wonderful, un-self-consciously poetic translation of a major historical record. If you are interested in the history of Central Asia, the Mongols, or Genghis Khan this is a must-read book. I loved it. At its height, the Mongol Empire was the biggest the world has ever seen. Gives a real feel for the culture of these nomads who burst out of nowhere to devastate both Islam and Christian Europe. It took over two centuries before the population of Eurasia returned to the level it had reached prior to Genghis Khan's depredations. A detailed account of Genghis Khan's origins, upbringing and deeds, especially how he succeeded in uniting the always fractured Mongolian nomads into an unstoppable military tidal wave.
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If you want historical fiction, please pick up Conn Iggulden's Conqueror series-- which is outstanding. This is a translation of Chingis Khan's own story. The really cool thing about the book is that it was originally a private work commissioned by the descendants of Chingis Khan. A little rambling, old world, sort of a lengthy poem similar to Beowulf but easier reading. Loved it. It's like a behind the scenes tour of Chingis Kahn's mind and times.
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on March 10, 2010
There is nothing wrong with Kahn's writing, I was just disappointed in how little real information about the Chingis Khan regime was in it. I was expecting details on battle strategies, more background on his relationship with Borte and his sons, and stuff like that. It was a lot more about who was put in command of which tribe, what color people's horses were, and things like that.
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on June 10, 2014
Currently reading ancient Secret History of the Mongols--an adaptation in blank verse--thoroughly enjoying it--from the get go--

"Genghis was descended from the union of a grey wolf and a fallow doe."

It was first written in Mandarin Chinese, then translated into English and other languages by Arthur Waley, among others.

I love Conn Iggulden, but can't write it like he does, so this one, maybe I will write it like my Shee-Monkey goes West, in a more lyrical style, from a women's point of view.

Like many oral histories, which were later written down centuries later, including Beowulf, and the Buddha's story,

this one has many moments of emotional truth among the rhythmic memory-jogging stanzas--

e.g. from the Buddha's story--Ananda leaned his head against a lintel and said--(as the Buddha Gotama lay dying)

and here

after there was no horse for Genghis (Temujin's) young wife Borte, and she was abducted,

Temujin finally was able to raid the camp of her captors --

"he went among the gers shouting 'Borte! Borte!'"

Since Secret History is also the oldest extant source, and also added on to by the equally lyrical Arab historian Juvaini--

I feel I can't go wrong, that's why I bought a second hand copy.

I carefully wiped the cover with a kitchen towel soaked in Listerine,

and I must say I just LOVE this adaptation from the original translation.

As Beowulf begins in Old English--


Listen up.

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on January 22, 2008
It is a gold for historicals but will be very hard to read for people who are not interested in Mongol history
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